Patterico's Pontifications


L.A. Times on the “Euphoria” of Being Starved to Death

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Schiavo — Patterico @ 7:22 am

The L.A. Times has a story today about how much fun it is to be starved and dehydrated to death. I kid you not. The story describes the “characteristic sense of euphoria that accompanies a complete lack of food and water.”


There is zero mention of the perspective provided by Kate Adamson, who was mistakenly diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state, had her feeding tube pulled, and lived to tell about it. I told you about Adamson’s experience the other day, in this post. Among other things, she said:

When the feeding tube was turned off for eight days, I was – thought I was going insane. I was screaming out don’t you know I need to eat. . . . [T]he hunger pains overrode every thought I had. . . . It was sheer torture . . .

Adamson told Wesley J. Smith that it was worse than when she had abdominal surgery:

The agony of going without food was a constant pain that lasted not several hours like my operation did, but several days. . . . I craved anything to drink. Anything. I obsessively visualized drinking from a huge bottle of orange Gatorade. And I hate orange Gatorade. I did receive lemon flavored mouth swabs to alleviate dryness but they did nothing to [slake] my desperate thirst.

Some might say that it would be different for Schiavo, because Schiavo is incapable of feeling pain. Smith says this is manifestly not true:

[I]t is undisputed that whatever her actual level of awareness, Terri does react to painful stimuli. Intriguingly, her doctor testified he prescribes pain medication for her every month during the course of her menstrual period.

So why the discrepancy between the L.A. Times version and Smith’s? Smith explains:

An accurate discussion of this sensitive issue requires the making of proper and nuanced distinctions about the consequences of removing nourishment from incapacitated patients. This generally becomes an issue in one of the following two diametrically differing circumstances:

1. Depriving food and water from profoundly cognitively disabled persons like Terri who are not otherwise dying, a process that causes death by dehydration over a period of 10-14 days. As I will illustrate below, this may cause great suffering.

2. Not forcing food and water upon patients who have stopped eating and drinking as part of the natural dying process. This typically occurs, for example, at the end stages of cancer when patients often refuse nourishment because the disease has distorted their senses of hunger and thirst. In these situations, being deprived of unwanted food and water when the body is already shutting down does not cause a painful death.

Advocates who argue that it is appropriate to dehydrate cognitively disabled people often sow confusion about the suffering such patients may experience by inadvertently, or perhaps intentionally, blurring the difference between these two distinct situations.

The L.A. Times joins this list of “advocates” today. The story relies on discussion and studies about terminally ill patients. But Terri Schiavo is not terminally ill.

The bottom line is that we don’t know whether Terri Schiavo is suffering. A previous L.A. Times story, though it tried to portray her death as gentle, acknowledged that Schiavo might feel pangs of hunger and thirst. Kate Adamson’s story suggests that even people diagnosed as being in a PVS can feel such pangs as torture.

But today’s propaganda piece mentions none of this. It is simply designed to make people feel better about killing a woman in a way we wouldn’t tolerate for a pet.

UPDATE: See the update to this post for an important correction regarding Kate Adamson.

50 Responses to “L.A. Times on the “Euphoria” of Being Starved to Death”

  1. […] ehydration and starvation with the experiences of terminally ill people. I discussed this the other day in connection with an L.A. Times story th […]

    Patterico's Pontifications » (0c6a63)

  2. *ptui* State-educated ‘science’…

    [then my evil little mind thought: “‘Euphoria?’ Now all the kids will be trying it…”]

    Claire (222d9a)

  3. Why don’t they just give morphine?

    actus (ebc508)

  4. The doctors have said they would make her comfortable by giving her drugs. Schiavo is incapable of feeling pain if they are giving her an appropriate dosage of morphine.

    Ladainian (91b3b2)

  5. I wonder how the LA Times would feel if the Department of Justice extended this humane euphoria to the inmates at Guantuanamo Bay Cuba.

    On second thought, I don’t wonder. I know exactly how the LA Times editorial board would react: with complete intellectual inconsistency and dishonesty.

    And you know what else is funny. Every one of them is a college-educated sheepskin-bearing “journalist.”

    What a crock.

    slim999 (564c96)

  6. Schiavo is incapable of feeling pain if they are giving her an appropriate dosage of morphine.

    Why morphine? I thought she was already supposed to be a vegetable incapable of experiencing anything.

    Xrlq (e2795d)

  7. “Why morphine? I thought she was already supposed to be a vegetable incapable of experiencing anything. ”

    Because some people are worried about her feeling pain, would be my guess.

    actus (ebc508)

  8. The article says “It’s a very smooth, graceful and elegant way to go”. That must be why CARE shows starving people in its ads.

    Fausta (63bbfb)

  9. Does morphine fix your hunger and thirst pangs??

    Patterico (08c813)

  10. “Does morphine fix your hunger and thirst pangs?”

    I was assuming it did. If there is a more appropriate anelgesic, then my question is amended to refer to that one.

    actus (ebc508)

  11. that should probably be anesthetic, not analgesic.

    actus (ebc508)

  12. Big Labor’s Speaker, Meet James Madison
    Following Matea Gold’s two excellent stories we wrote about Monday on Miguel Contreras and the “non-profit” he created for the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, the LAT has a similarly excellent editorial on Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuez: He’…

    Local Liberty (a8d754)

  13. Irony: Terry Schiavo got into this condition due to her anorexia. She is now being starved to death by the state.

    Extreme irony: The Times’ article fails to mention this, even though it would bolster their argument. Sloppy reporting.

    Kevin Murphy (9982dd)

  14. We don’t know that she got into this due to anorexia. What is your authority for that?

    Patterico (08c813)

  15. Not So Peaceful
    As an update to this post, see Patterico for an account of the “peaceful and dignified” death offered by starvation….

    Vox (72590e)

  16. Another fun quote from the story:

    …said Dr. Perry G. Fine, vice president of medical affairs at the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in Arlington, Va. “It’s a very smooth, graceful and elegant way to go.”

    Elegant? Creepy.

    Christopher Cross (84f076)

  17. The eating disorder – it’s generally reported as bulimia – has been widely reported, Pat. I’m surprised you haven’t heard about it. It was supposedly responsible for the potassium imbalance that caused the heart stoppage.

    Of course, there’s another theory that she was a battered woman, but it’s no more credible than the theory that her parents abused her as a child.

    Richard Bennett (57f7ac)

  18. Richard Bennett,

    Who said I hadn’t heard about it? I want to know Kevin Murphy’s authority for it.

    The word of Michael Schiavo — uncritically accepted by mainstream media publications?

    Or did a court so find?

    I don’t think we have any authority for this but Michael Schiavo — and it’s bitterly disputed by her family. If I wrong about this, I am open to correction.

    Patterico (756436)

  19. Dude, this is nothing but a blog, not a stinking courtroom.

    Richard Bennett (57f7ac)

  20. “Or did a court so find?”

    Not like that would solve anything.

    actus (e8ffe9)

  21. Some have mentioned morphine against any possible pain.

    Would there be any objection to an overdose of morphine?

    It would drastically shorten the suffering.
    She is being actively killed now – by withholding nutrients – so what’s the difference between slow and fast?

    Can anyone make a reasonable, logical argument against it?

    “That would be murder” is unacceptable. Denying someone food and water is murder. (Or at least, in this case, in the legal sense, killing.)

    Mike (b5d255)

  22. Patterico–

    At this point I’d have a hard time finding an otiginal, unbiased, source.

    However, nearly every article that touches upon her prior medical condition says she was anorexic. As I understand it, the malpractice claim that established her maintentance fund was based on a claim of a chemical imbalance due to an undiagnosed anorexia that led to a stroke.

    I do note that the Schiavo’s deny this, FWIW, asserting that it “just happened.”

    Kevin Murphy (6a7945)

  23. It isn’t often that I would walk into someone’s office and accuse them of being Naziis. However, the situation at the LA Times is different. Here is a once decent newspaper that reported news, now it’s a mere propganda organ fighting to surpass the propaganda organizations created by the Goebbels and the Streichers. To the LA Times editorial staff — have you forgotten how Hitler’s goons sold euthanasia? Apparently you suffer from the same symptoms that plague Terri Schiavo.

    Mescalero (5c1cba)

  24. While most of the stuff out there now is hopelessly biased one way or another, a fairly neutral atricle from 2003 says:

    By this time, Terri’s weight had dropped below 120 and Mrs. Schindler says she confronted her daughter about how thin she was getting.

    Terri’s reply: “I eat, Mom. I eat.”

    Potassium disorders and heart failure have been linked to anorexia, but the family doesn’t think Terri had a real eating disorder. Doctors have never been able to say with certainty what caused the collapse.

    Since anorexia, like other behavioral conditions is a subjective diagnosis, it will never be known if she actaully had a serious eating disorder. Her behavior and potassium condition were consistant with that, however.

    Kevin Murphy (6a7945)

  25. Terri Schiavo Links
    Michael Schiavo’s medical witness, Dr. Michael Cranford, advocated starvation of Alzheimer’s patients in a 1997 editorial. Via The Corner. Patterico rebuts the LA Times depiction of death by starvation as being “euphoric.” The NY Times described de…

    Les Jones (794c81)

  26. Kevin,

    I don’t know how tall she is/was, but I have seen pictures of her with Michael. She is considerably shorter. For a short woman, 120 pounds is not anorexic. And mothers are always bugging their children to eat.

    Anorexia is possible, I suppose. But you seemed to assume that was established. Far from it.

    The same article quotes Terri’s friend as saying Terri once told her: “Where there’s life, there’s hope.”

    Does that sound like someone who would want to end their life by being starved and dehydrated to death?

    Hope for Terri is about to run out.

    Patterico (756436)

  27. Schiavo Links
    I have not posted much about the Schiavo case. There are other blogs out there doing so. Below are some links. FindLaw has posted all of the opinions filed in the case here Outside the Beltway has consistently good posts…

    The Southern California Law Blog (f2a7ef)

  28. Anorexia is not something that one “establishes” like cancer or the flu. It’s psychological and the physical symptoms are only indicitave.

    I had an employee who was 5′ 4″ and 83 pounds, with pronounced shoulderblades jutting from her clothing and toothpick arms, who INSISTED VEHEMENTLY she had a normal “thin” weight and that there was nothing wrong with her eating patterns except for “allergies.” She ate about one tiny plate of lettuce for lunch, if that.

    She got to the point where her neck was having trouble supporting her head — and she got some idiot doctor to put a plate in her neck to provide the support. Eventually she could no longer work and I lost track of her.

    And even in this case anorexia could not be “established” as there is nothing but opinion and subjectivity to go by. The doctor who operated on her told her it wasn’t anorexia. There’s always one like that. To everyone else, though, it was obvious.

    As I said — all I have to go on is news reports and the opinions of two SIDES that are not particularly interested in anything but results. Truth is the first casualty of war.

    Clearly she had a stroke, clearly she had chemical imbalances, clearly she was noticibly underweight, and reportedly she had been thinner in the past — and all these things are consistant with anorexia. There was no court finding of that, but 1) it is psychological not physical and Terry wasn’t available for interview, and 2) it wasn’t necessary for the jury that awarded damages to establish.

    Kevin Murphy (6a7945)

  29. I’m less sure about the “noticeably underweight” part. I bet she was no more than 5’4″. If she had been 83 pounds, that would be one thing. But 120 pounds wouldn’t be anorexia at that height, I wouldn’t think. Would you?

    Patterico (756436)

  30. You can’t judge anorexia from what a woman weighs at one single point in time; it’s a cycle.

    Richard Bennett (c5751d)

  31. Questions
    Patterico demolishes the insipid Los Angeles Times and their claim that dehydration and starvation bring euphoria. . . .

    Sierra Faith (51b069)

  32. You can’t judge anorexia from what a woman weighs at one single point in time; it’s a cycle.

    I asked what the evidence was that she was anorexic, other than boneheaded mainstream media articles uncritically passing on Michael Schiavo’s say-so.

    Kevin Murphy’s main response was an article saying that her weight had fallen below 120. I am saying that is not that much evidence of anything, because 120 is a fine weight for a shorter woman. You are saying it’s a cycle; fine. But we’re back to no evidence.

    You appear to be simply assuming that she really was anorexic, and saying that a weight of 120 proves she wasn’t. I am saying that a weight of 120 doesn’t prove she was — so what does?

    Of course, according to you, this is a blog and “not a stinking courtroom” — which appears, in context, to mean that you think you don’t have to provide any basis for what you say.

    Patterico (756436)

  33. Anorexia is, indeed, a cycle. Many sufferers “yo-yo” their weight, oscillating between periods of starvation and binging. Anorexia and bulemia are often present in the same individual at various times. You cannot look at an individual and determine that there is an eating disorder — you have no idea where in the cycle s/he is.

    The potassium imbalance, which I believe the original tort jury found to be present, is quite indicative of this. Psychiatric evidence would have been decisive, but that was of course impossible given Terry’s condition.

    Now, do I have any strong opinion on the current matter? Not really. I can easily argue either side, and understand the feelings of both. There is only one conclusion I have come to on all of this: Make sure I’ve got a signed Advanced Health Care Directive (“living will”).

    Kevin Murphy (6a7945)

  34. Oh, about the “courtroom” thing: People on both sides seem pretty willing to accept one courtroom decision and reject another. What is “proved” or not seems pretty much in the eye of the beholder.

    Kevin Murphy (6a7945)

  35. Of course, according to you, this is a blog and “not a stinking courtroom” – which appears, in context, to mean that you think you don’t have to provide any basis for what you say.

    Actually, it’s worse than that. Not only does he think he doesn’t have to back up his views, he also thinks others shouldn’t be allowed to express theirs at all, even if they can back them up. In this thread, he came damned close to saying that people of faith shouldn’t have a right to an opinion on this matter at all. Then, in this follow-up thread, he accused Dean Esmay of dishonesty over his atheism and his support of federalism. Apparently, in Bennett’s book, any atheist who isn’t hostile enough to religion isn’t a “real” atheist, and anyone who actually bothers to read the Constitution rather than accept Bennett’s take on federalism without question isn’t a “real” federalist, either.

    Reasoning with somebody like that is pointless. Might as well reason with your dog, instead. At least the dog will try to understand you.

    Xrlq (ffb240)

  36. Heh. How did miss this, where you’re not a real attorney, either? What a maroon.

    Xrlq (5ffe06)

  37. Even Jesus on the cross was given vinegar on a sponge when he said, “I thirst”.
    What does that have to do with Terry Shiavo? There’s a connection there – somewhere, if you want to find it.

    Boman (f86a64)

    Time and options are running out for Terri. Trey Jackson has video of Terri’s brother Bobby at a press conference stating that he is going to recommend his parents not visit anymore because of Terri’s condition. Many readers have noted…

    Michelle Malkin (3ca10e)

  39. If 120lbs is anorexic for a 5’4 woman (IOW, both Terri and me), how come the MetLife tables show that as an “ideal” body weight for someone of that height with a small/medium frame?

    Note that the cited text says her weight “dropped” to 120 and then further to 110 (what I weighed until I was 30, and I’m not anorexic – just built like my mother and grandmother) and that her parents said she’d been very overweight most of her life. Sounds like Mom was just having trouble adjusting to her daughter’s new body – which is a pretty normal reaction, particularly when the child in question got fat under Mom’s care.

    clf (84d459)

  40. They want us to believe both that she can feel pleasure (“euphoria”) and that she can not feel pain. And they provide no empirical evidence to support their position.

    Second, according to a Time reporter interviewed by Nancy Grace yesterday, Terri Schiavo is not being allowed morphine or painkillers.

    Graham Lester (afca91)

  41. The Philadelphia Inquirer went so far as to publish this boner: “Even a normal, healthy person would feel little discomfort after the first few days of thirst.”

    Anon (038fb3)

  42. I can’t help but think of “Soylent Green” with the lovely death chambers with beautiful scenery and music playing. Remember those. The ones they (The State) sent you to when you no longer were of any use or you had aged out. This is looking a lot like a reality show version of the movie.

    thirdfinger (11abaa)

    I have made my position on l’affaire Schiavo clear, but all of the legalisms in the world don’t obscure two very important facts: We are dealing with the termination of a human life. Whether Terri Schiavo asked to be allowed…

    Pejmanesque (2ae9b5)

  44. would she have any euphoria in heaven?

    Stan (3d6135)

  45. Kate Adamson’s story has limited relevance to what is happening to Terri Schiavo for the following reasons:

    1) Adamson was not being dehydrated when she went without food for eight days. She had IV fluids the entire time.

    2) The feeding was stopped in advance of surgery for a life-threatening bowel obstruction. The removal of food was not done to hasten her death, but to prevent it because of the bowel obstruction.

    3) Adamson was not in PVS, though some of the doctors thought she may be. Any early misdiagnosis was resolved as her treatment went forward. Therefore, she did not recover from PVS because she was not in that state.

    4) Adamson had a stroke, not cardiac arrest. A stroke by definition only affects part of the brain. Cardiac arrest stops all blood flow to the brain.

    Jerry (9f9d9a)

  46. Jerry,

    I have done an update to both my posts regarding Kate Adamson to reflect part of what you are saying.

    Do you have links for the rest?

    Patterico (756436)

  47. Most of it is available on Adamson’s own website via the articles published about her.

    The rest is the same link provided by Ed which you referenced.

    Sadly there have been numerous misrepresentations of Adamson’s story apparently because of her own unwilliness to tell the whole story.

    Jerry (96474e)

  48. This Article Says Nothing To Support The

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    Pueraria Mirifica (bf2890)

  50. It takes many days, probably around two weeks or more to get the morphine level high enough.

    My elderly mother was starved in the hospital. I saw the agony all over her face as she struggled to speak. My sister had power of atty and I couldn’t stop her. Feel awful that I advised my mother to give her pow, as my brother wouldn’t even let dogs be euthanized. I didn’t know she would be fooled into thinking starvation was a good way to die – even though she was disturbed by the suffering she saw. Just the fact that “professionals” were telling her it was a good way overrode what her eyes saw. Someone in the hospital broke her arm and said nothing. Given that I see nurses team up when turning her, maybe they always team up for physical care, and very unlikely to go unreported w/two people. I’m wondering if she was attacked by some sociopath working there. She was too weak to cry out, so she would have been an easy victim.

    jsca (ca290a)

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